Expect nothing and you’ll almost always be pleasantly surprised. The problem is that when you start university, you’ll no doubt have been told a whole host of things to expect at Freshers’ week, from either friends, teachers or parents. Because of this, you’ll come prepared to your first week at St Andrews with a solid idea of what you’re going to do; be it go out every night, speak to everyone you meet or sign up to everything you get offered, chances are you have a rough idea of what you want to get out of your first week at university. Let’s tick off the things you’ll want to do one by one.
Go out every night:
This is possibly the easiest one to do. All you need to achieve this one is a bit of cash, some Berocca and a nonchalant disregard for your physical health. There will be plenty of stuff on in the Union, none of it particularly good, but there’s something about being surrounded by a couple of hundred other people your age, brimming with excitement and sweating Smirnoff that makes even the weakest DJ set bearable. Clan Warfare is a particularly interesting case: a chance for you to go and represent your halls of residence (which you’ll be told is your “new home” about a thousand times a day) despite knowing literally nothing about it. Nonetheless you will insist that all other halls are rubbish, throw accusations at people from other halls as to the legitimacy of their birth, and generally act like a complete tool. Which is all good fun really. You’ll reach burn out by Thursday, but who cares when you’ve stripped five years worth of function from your liver? The only thing to remember is that St Andrews doesn’t really have much in the way of nightlife, just seven thousand other youths trying to enjoy themselves, which usually results in joviality of some description.
Speak to everyone you meet:
Seems like a good idea this one and indeed you’ll probably spend your first day cheerily gurning at almost anyone resembling a human you happen to pass, but eventually this forced cheeriness will wear thin. It is particularly difficult to overcome this if you have a roommate, meaning that you will rarely have a moment to return to your usual miserable self outside of sitting on the toilet. Even this might not work depending on how much your roommate wants to be your friend. At university you’ll “make friends for life,” admittedly a phrase more tired than Big Narstie on a treadmill but one which does to an extent bear repeating. The problem is that you tend to assume anyone you get on with even mildly in freshers week is going to be your BFF, when chances are those conversations about that one interest you have in common, be it hip-hop, Hull City or your Great Western Railway memorabilia collection aren’t going to help while away the long winter nights. Some people you spend a lot of time with in the first week might barely cross your mind by May but don’t worry, you won’t cross theirs either.
Find academic parents:
This part is always fun. Essentially you will spend most of your first week being asked by people in older years whether you want to be their child. This is not a deeply Freudian sexual request on their part, it’s genuinely an offer to have them guide you through university life as well as pour alcohol on you at ‘academic dinners’. Think of them being your Virgil, guiding you through nine circles of drink-based suffering. They will invite you to their house, cook you a dry and flavourless meal and then give you either cornflakes with Baileys, gin in a shoe or Jaeger gravy and then apologise profusely when you arrive in Dundee A&E with acute alcohol poisoning. But it won’t just be you going through this, you will also no doubt have academic siblings, other young and thus far unbent spoons with which your parents will continue to scrape the barrel of good taste, culminating in the complete shit-show that is Raisin Sunday. But I’ll let your parents tell you about that…
Acquaint yourself with town:
It won’t take much. You could fit all the people in St Andrews into Wembley with 70,000 seats left to spare. There are basically three streets, 4 if you include The Scores, with a town spreading back inland, with not much there but houses. We boast an Aldi and a Morrisons out there too, as well as a newly built M&S which looks like the black cube some scientists will probably find in Independence Day 3. As far as the town itself goes, it has a load of chain restaurants, some lunch shops (try to get that perfect meal deal) and some fancy restaurants full of people wearing golf shoes. If you fancy getting a bit of history, go up to the sea front by the stunning cathedral ruins, and experience a view so breathtaking you will be reminded of it in week 8 as you stand there, breathless because of the gale force wind sending flying not only your hair but the stream of urine you’re desperately trying to aim at the cathedral wall, as the puddle creeps slowly nearer your 3am kebab and the burn of vodka in your veins is the only thing keeping you from hypothermia. Which brings me onto the final shop type in town; the various clothes shops, all boasting a wonderful collection of thick coats, compact umbrellas and heavy scarves. Invest it’ll be worth it in December.
Sign up to everything you get offered:
Fresher’s Fayre, that most wonderful of afternoons spent being shepherded around a stuffy union building, having clipboards thrown at you as you trundle slowly past tables of hopeful looking snooker or crochet enthusiasts, begging you to put your e-mail down on the list so you can inwardly say ‘fuck off’ when you get the monthly update e-mail while finishing your dissertation four years later, despite never attending any of the events. There are more things to do at university than you can shake a shinty stick at, and you will probably sign up for more than you can possibly manage to fit in around recovering from hangovers but it’s worth having a look around. There are some weird and wonderful societies about and you might find a better way of procrastinating your essays than staring at Kim Kardashian’s backside on Instagram, or whatever you do normally. Hell, sign up for The Saint. Go mad.
Go to your introductory lectures:
Don’t bother. Life’s too short.
You probably have a few more aims for your first week at university, some of them perhaps unprintable here, but I can guarantee that the reality will almost always be different from what you hoped for. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, Freshers’ Week is going to be different for each and every one of you. The thing is that most people won’t remember most of the things you did or the mistakes you made and it really is a good chance to do stuff that you probably haven’t done before. It’s a chance to present yourself in a new way, and forge a new path in your life. There will be plenty of moments to eventually savour, though some may appear bleak at the time, but Fife is your home now and all the people walking past you in Tesco and on the pier are in, or were in, your position once. And they’re all still reasonable enough approximations of functioning human beings, so I’m sure you’ll manage too. Welcome to St Andrews, remember to wipe your feet on the mat.